Buying life insurance is the first step in preparing for the future. However, it is very important to ensure that your life insurance policy is distributed in the manner in which you intend. This can only be accomplished by a legal will. Proper will planning can not only ensure the preservation and protection of your assets during your life time, but also an effective transfer of assets in a tax-effective manner and the continued preservation of property.

Be aware that the laws differ depending on the province in which you reside. Before you start to plan your will, check with your province’s current legislation regarding wills. Remember that legislation does change, so make sure you are using the most current information available. Consulting with a lawyer is always recommended.

Your will serves several different purposes:

  • It designates who will administer your estate.
  • Sets out the manner in which you intend your estate to be distributed, and controls the time and manner in which your assets are to be distributed.
  • Designate the age when a minor is eligible to inherit.
  • Make provisions for a disabled minor.
  • Specify which outstanding debts which are owed to you are either forgiven or still outstanding.

Once your will is written, it is important to remember that it is not irrevocable. At any time, you can amend your will as circumstances change. A codicil can be added stating minor adjustments to your will. Remember to check your province’s legislation regarding marriage; as marriage can revoke your existing will, unless specific provisions in contemplation of marriage are already stated. Also check your province’s definition of spouse to whether it includes common-law or same-sex spouses.

Division of your estate is a key consideration. It’s a wise decision to have a consultation with a lawyer. A lawyer will help you determine the status of your assets and liabilities, and advise you on the distribution of your estate.

The value of your estate (residue of the estate) is the balance left over after expenses associated with burial, taxes, etc. have been paid. This is the amount that will be left to your beneficiary/beneficiaries. Depending on your province of residence, different legislation will determine the rights of your beneficiary/beneficiaries. Your lawyer will have the necessary statutes to advise you of the best way of dividing your estate.

If you are planning on naming a minor as a beneficiary, it is usually advisable to set up a trust. Unless otherwise stated in your will, the minor will receive their bequest at the age of majority (ages differ according to province). In this case, you will need to appoint someone you trust as the trustee of the minor’s trust. You can specify in your will the circumstances (education expenses, etc) in which the Trustee may use trust funds in order to provide for the minor.

If you are a parent, you must consider the guardianship and custodianship in the event that you (and your partner, if applicable) die at the same time. Consult with your lawyer about the laws in your province concerning custody and guardianship. It is important to remember that the trustee of your child’s trust does not have to be the same person you designate as the custodian of your child. Choosing a guardian for your child/children is a very important decision, and requires careful consideration and planning. Discuss your thoughts and concerns with your lawyer, who can advise you of the best course of action.

Planning a will does not have to be a confusing experience. Even if you do not want a lawyer to draw up your will, and choose to do it yourself, we strongly advise consulting with a lawyer. A lawyer can help you through the legalities of your will, and also ensure that your wishes are carried out.